Published on By Maralyn Edid
Up & Up Diapers Review
From $0.16 Best
Target's store brand diapers attract a cult following for their low price, high performance, and stylish polka-dot print. Equally important for some families, they're also chlorine- and latex-free.
Budget-friendly doesn't have to mean low quality or unattractive, according to reviews of Up & Up diapers. This Target store brand boasts a devoted following thanks to a cheap price, chemical-free components, and hypoallergenic features. On the company website and elsewhere, scores of parents tell of their conversion following the recommendation of friends.
Some reviewers assert that Up & Up's performance exceeds that of high-priced diapers such as Pampers Swaddlers and Cruisers. And while a smattering of reviews grouse about leaks and blowouts (almost exclusively overnight), the vast majority accept the trade-off between affordability and okay performance, with low price compensating for any gaps. A few online posts say the brand works best through size 2, when babies aren't moving around as much; activity, they suggest, contributes to leakage. Up & Ups don't stretch quite as much as the premium brands, which may mean a less-than-snug fit on some children.
Unlike some budget diapers, Up & Up (from 16 cents/diaper, Target) come in a newborn size suitable for babies weighing up to 10 pounds. Size 1 should fit starting at 8 pounds and the line reaches the end at size 6, for children weighing 35 pounds or more. The first three sizes feature a wetness indicator. Diapers of all sizes are free of latex, perfumes, chlorine, and petroleum-based lotions; are made from natural materials (wood fluff pulp and cotton); and incorporate a hypoallergenic inner liner. The shape is contoured, the waist is adjustable, and the leg openings are dual-cuffed to stave off leakage. The fasteners are hook and loop and the outer shell is decorated in a polka-dot pattern.
BabyGearLab ranks Up & Up diapers No. 17 out of 24 tested but still dubs them a "great value." The Target brand was the cheapest of the lot and bested some higher-priced labels, including Fisher-Price Happy Days and Seventh Generation Free & Clear. They were weighed down by poor absorption and average leakage but floated higher with good ecological and health features. Indeed, plenty of parents appreciate the chemical-free qualities, although some report rashes breaking out after introducing the brand to the nursery.
Target's Up & Up diapers are a low-risk investment with potential for a high savings payoff if the diapers work for your child.
Luvs Ultra Leakguards Review
From $0.17 Best
Customers like the soft feel and extra-stretchy side tabs of these diapers, not to mention the price. Many parents say they perform as well as, or better than, more expensive brands.
Luvs offers a money-back guarantee that draws in parents. The company says that if these value-priced diapers don't vanquish leaks as well as the brand you've been using, it will refund your money. Based on the scores of 5-star reviews at Amazon, it's probably safe to say not many parents request a refund.
Feedback posted at Viewpoints, where Luvs Ultra Leakguards diapers garner a solid 4-star average rating from nearly 1,600 reviews, is quite enthusiastic. Parents refer to Luvs as their go-to brand, one that's preferred over others because of price, performance, and ease of use (refastenable side tabs get frequent shout-outs, with one mother noting they make it easy to check what's going on inside). Some posts refer to leakage at night and needing to swap these out for a premium diaper (Pampers Swaddlers, for example) during sleep time. Others, however, are adamant that Luvs diapers hold their own through 10 or 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep, even for children who down loads of fluids. Discomfort rarely surfaces as an issue in parents' comments, although we did come across several reports about nasty rashes. The perfume scent proves a little strong for some noses.
Experts' view of Luvs Ultra Leakguards (from 17 cents/diaper, Amazon) diverges from that of most online reviewers. In comparative testing by BabyGearLab, this brand wins points for its low price and soft feel but earns demerits for leakage, absorption, and health and eco-friendliness. Among the sample of 24 different diapers, it ranks No. 20.
Features of note in Luvs Ultra Leakguards include large, extra-stretchy tabs and stretchy sides. The diapers are contoured with leak-protective gathered leg cuffs, and contain a proprietary "leakguard" core and a large absorbent area for overnight dryness. Luvs come in a newborn size (4 to 10 pounds) and sizes 1 through 6, the largest suited for toddlers weighing more than 35 pounds.
Overall this is a high-value diaper that satisfies legions of parents and babies.
Huggies Snug & Dry Review
From $0.19 Good
Many parents sing the praises of this budget line of diapers, which features the same leak-control system found in pricier Huggies Little Snugglers and Little Movers.
Huggies is a wildly popular diaper brand, if thousands of reviews are any indication, with plenty of acclaim directed toward the budget-priced Snug & Dry line. The majority of comments posted at sites such as Amazon and Target assert that the "leak lock" feature, intended to provide up to 12 hours of protection, does indeed keep babies dry and clothing and bedding safe from overnight leakage. Sizing seems true, according to Huggies Snug & Dry reviews, providing a fit that's tight without any discomfort. The elastic waistband and adjustable tabs lend an assist here, especially for children with larger bottoms. Complaints about rashes are few and far between, and a smattering of parents writes that skin irritations cleared up with Snug & Dry. Another plus is the affordable price, especially when stacked against Pampers Snugglers and Cruisers and other Huggies diaper lines.
Not surprisingly, some online posts push back against the accolades. Leakage and inadequate absorbency are problems regardless whether the child is awake or sleeping, a minority contends; one parent says the diapers seem too stiff to hold much (although another comments on their "cloth-like" feel). We read several reports about having switched to the brand's Little Movers line when the baby's activity level kicked into high gear. BabyGearLab determined in a comparative test of 24 diaper lines that Snug & Dry's absorption was only average and leaking was prevalent.
Like most lower-cost diapers, Huggies Snug & Dry (from 19 cents/diaper, Amazon) comes in six sizes, with the smallest meant to accommodate 8-pound babies and the largest designed for toddlers weighing 35 pounds and more. The sides, back, and leg holes are stretchable, and unlike some of the budget competition, sizes 1 and 2 feature a wetness indicator. Also unusual in this price range is the Mickey Mouse (Disney) character decoration. Purchasers are invited to take advantage of Huggies' tie-in with Disney for merchandise points and sweepstakes.
Price makes this budget version of a premium label appealing. Reviewers note the availability of free samples and coupons on the company's website, so if you're unsure about trying Huggies Snug & Dry, start there.
Pampers Baby Dry Review
From $0.24 Good
These diapers boast up to 12 hours of protection, so theoretically fewer diapers are needed overall and the per-diaper cost is more manageable. Reviews praise the versatile fit and soft feel.
The strong, but not unanimous, consensus about Pampers Baby Dry is that this cheaper line of diapers from a leading brand is a good deal. Many caregivers are drawn to Baby Dry first for the price and ultimately stick with the product for performance, fit, and comfort. Scores of reviews on sites such as Amazon and Viewpoints attest to their ability to keep babies dry and prevent leakage; in other words, they rank high on the absorbency meter. Baby Dry is so reliable, one parent writes, that she is sure to use them on days when it's not possible to change her child's diaper frequently. Many parents report that Baby Dry holds a lot, seemingly more than other brands, and doesn't cause skin irritations.
And yet, we came across a number of critical reviews complaining about the usual diaper-related disappointments: blowouts, leakage, and rashes. Some feedback contends that this line isn't as soft as Pampers' pricier Swaddlers and Cruisers diapers, looks and feels low quality, doesn't fit as well, and requires many daytime changes -- forget about overnight. There was also some grousing about hard-to-use tabs.
Pampers Baby Dry (from 24 cents/diaper, Amazon) claims to provide up to 12 hours of dryness while the baby sleeps. A wide core and multiple layers, including one that's stamped with a raised pattern, are identified in product marketing as the protective features. There are stretchy sides, an adjustable waist, and a cotton-like feel to the outer shell, which is decorated with Sesame Street characters. These diapers come in seven sizes, starting with newborn for babies weighing less than 10 pounds, and climbing up to size 6 for toddlers weighing 35 pounds and more. Unlike other bargain-priced diapers, Pampers Baby Dry features a wetness indicator for all sizes.
This line from Pampers sits at the top of the Cheapism price range. Parents of heavy wetters may want to use a cheaper brand for daytime and relegate Baby Dry to nighttime duty to stretch their value.
Walgreens Well Beginnings Review
From $0.19 Think Twice
Walgreens often puts these house brand diapers on sale, so it's possible to get a lot for the money, but the trade-off is uncertain performance, such as leakage and occasional skin irritations.
Frequent specials, such as buy-one-get-one-free, often mean these diapers are available at rock-bottom prices, but Walgreens Well Beginnings reviews suggest buyers should think twice before plunging ahead. The house-brand product's performance seems to be as varied as the sales sticker. While some reviewers are partial to Walgreens baby diapers, most are more impressed with low prices than overall quality.
The newborn size earns an average 3.3 stars on the company website, where some parents commend the performance and sizing, as well as the price, while others complain about skin breakouts and leakage. Well Beginnings reviews of size 4 are more consistently positive. Some assert they beat out the name-brand competition (e.g., Huggies and Pampers) for leakage and absorbency, but others contend the cheap price is deceiving because the baby goes through more diapers. We also read posts claiming that the diaper material doesn't absorb quickly or hold liquid well, so the diapers often sag and require frequent changing -- some say almost immediately after urination. A few say Parent's Choice diapers, Walmart's in-house brand, are cheaper and do a better job.
Some feedback posted at Viewpoints links these diapers to rashes on the wearers despite the fact that the brand boasts a soft, hypoallergenic lining. Aside from the discomfort that accompanies skin irritations, these diapers also lose points with reviewers for comfort and feel; several contend Well Beginnings isn't as soft as other brands.
Walgreens Well Beginnings diapers come in seven sizes, starting with newborn for babies weighing 10 pounds or less. Like most other bargain diaper brands, this one maxes out at size 6 for toddlers weighing 35 pounds and up. The waist and side panels are soft and stretchy. The hypoallergenic inner liner features botanicals, vitamin E, and aloe.
Although many reviews urge stocking up when offered at deep discounts, the regular list price is on par with bigger-name and better-performing brands. Unless the price is too good to pass up, don't bother, especially if the baby is a heavy wetter.
Where to buy
Among the dozens of diapering options, it's not easy to tell which is the least costly and most effective. To help caregivers find the best cheap diapers, Cheapism talked with new parents, sorted through scores of online reviews of cheap disposable diapers, and also peeked at the eco-friendly, washable category. The criteria we assessed include cost per unit, fit, and absorption and leak protection. For comparison, we focused on the prices of size 3 diapers sold in bulk packages of 100 or more. The cost per diaper rather than the package price is the critical number (if the unit cost is not displayed, divide the total price by the number of diapers) and bulk diapers are typically the most economical buy. Always check manufacturer websites for coupons and free samples.
Budget Diapers Buying Guide
The average baby goes through about 2,500 diapers in the first year alone, and most children are not fully toilet-trained until age 3. This means that opting for diapers that cost 15 cents instead of 30 cents each can save parents a good $375 a year. Cheapism surveyed prices of name-brand diapers at Target, Amazon, Walmart, and Diapers.com and checked several in-house brands sold by big-box retailers such as Costco and chain pharmacies such as Walgreens and CVS. We defined cheap diapers as those costing 14 cents to 25 cents apiece (in a pack of 100 or more size 3 diapers). Pricier diapers tend to be thinner, softer, and more durable, but we found good buys at the value end of the market.
Our research determined that Up & Up Diapers (from 16 cents) from Target and Luvs Ultra Leakguards (from 17 cents) are the two best cheap diapers; the former stands out for the balance between value and performance, the latter for design and ease of use. Huggies Snug & Dry (from 19 cents) underperforms compared with the brand's premium offerings but impresses legions of parents who appreciate the budget price for a top-drawer name. Pampers Baby Dry (from 24 cents) is another good low-cost diaper, the most expensive on our list, but lauded for fit and minimal leakage. Walgreens' Well Beginnings diapers (from 19 cents) prove to be a washout -- despite frequent sales offering rock-bottom prices -- due to complaints about leakage.
Another bargain-priced disposable diaper worth mentioning is the lesser-known Cuties brand (from 18 cents). Limited accessibility keeps Cuties out of the running -- they're available primarily online -- but they score well with users in terms of overall performance, and experts praise the surprisingly high absorbency, durability, and chemical-free content given the low price.
Diaper Brands.Pampers and Huggies are the major players in the disposables market, each offering several diaper lines at different price points. Aside from the lower-cost Baby Dry, Pampers sells higher-cost Swaddlers (from 28 cents), Cruisers (from 26 cents), and other specialty lines. Huggies adds Little Snugglers (from 28 cents) and Little Movers (from 26 cents) to a long lineup that starts with the budget-priced Snug & Dry. Luvs is a well-known brand distinguished from the two above by offering just one diaper line (a Luvs exclusive at Walmart differs slightly only in outward appearance). In-house brands often land in the budget diapers bucket, and some (e.g., Target) perform almost on par with the big-name competition. Generic diapers, found at outlets such as dollar stores, are the most frugal buy, but parents often say they're not as soft or absorbent and the sizing may be a little off, which can contribute to leakage. Eco-friendly disposable brands generally are priced beyond the Cheapism niche. Earth's Best TenderCare diapers start at 32 cents apiece, for example.
Washable Diapers.Good old cloth diapers are another penny-wise option. Although laundering soaks up energy and resources, reusable diapers appeal to eco-conscious parents concerned about the hundreds of years it reportedly takes disposables to decompose in a landfill. Traditional "prefold" cotton diapers require an initial investment of about $70 (assuming a maximum cost of $2 a diaper and a wash schedule of every three days) and several repeat outlays as the baby grows. Still, reusables should prove cheaper over time, especially if used for more than one child. The new washable "all-in-one" or "pocket" diapers, made of materials such as microfiber, fleece, hemp, and bamboo, go on and off much like disposables and are more absorbent than traditional prefolds. The upfront cost here hits hard -- $12 and up for one diaper -- but fewer than two dozen will do. Our favorite in this category is BumGenius 4.0 (from $17.50), a one-size-fits-all diaper that's user-friendly, long-lasting, and perfume- and dye-free. Other popular one-size pocket-style brands include FuzziBunz (from $17) and GroVia Hybrid (from $17). All-in-ones that come in incremental sizes are prohibitively expensive long term.
Sites such as Diaper Pin and Diaper Swappers host active forums and sales pages for used diapers.
Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table
What We Looked For
Diapers, whether disposable or reusable, are a simple product with a clear function: Keep babies dry, keep the contents from spilling out, and protect sensitive skin. All the diapers we researched include absorbent layers and anti-leak design elements. That leaves only a few features to distinguish one diaper brand from another.
Sizing Options.Cheap disposable diapers are cut to fit babies in particular weight ranges, with overlap between sizes. Up & Up, Luvs Ultra Leakguards, and Pampers Baby Dry offer a newborn size (up to 10 pounds), which helped earn these brands a spot on our list of best cheap diapers. Huggies Snug & Dry, by contrast, starts at size 1 for babies weighing 8 to 14 pounds; brand loyalists may have to opt for Huggies' pricier Little Snugglers line, which comes in preemie and newborn sizes. Cheap disposables max out at size 6, and at the upper reaches should be large enough for children weighing 35 pounds and more. One-size cloth diapers, such as BumGenius 4.0, fit babies weighing as little as 8 pounds and up to 35 pounds, give or take.
Irritant-Free Diapers.Some babies (and parents) are particularly sensitive to components that may show up in budget-priced diapers, such as latex, chemical dyes, perfumes, or the chlorine that bleaches some of the raw materials. Luvs, for example, gets dinged in some parent reviews for its strong fragrance. But even in the low-cost diaper universe, it's possible to avoid such irritants. None of the products we researched use chlorine during the production process, and none contain latex. Target's Up & Up diapers are made of cotton and wood fluff pulp, and include a hypoallergenic inner liner with aloe and vitamin D. Walgreens' Well Beginnings diapers also feature a hypoallergenic inner liner with natural botanicals, aloe, and vitamin E. Cuties are completely hypoallergenic and free of potentially irritating ingredients such as latex and fragrances. Costco's Kirkland Signature Supreme diapers (from 20 cents) are hypoallergenic, as well, and contain no perfume scents. In general, though, completely hypoallergenic and irritant-free disposables are pricier than discount diapers. The Seventh Generation Free & Clear brand features an unbleached fiber core and contains no dyes, perfumes, or petroleum-based lotions but starts at 31 cents a diaper.
Diaper Features We Ignored
Wetness Indicators.One feature commonly found on high-priced premium diapers is a "wetness indicator," an area usually on the front of the diaper that turns red or blue when the diaper needs changing. Up & Up and Huggies Snug & Dry are graced with this frill through size 2, and Pampers Baby Dry features it throughout, but most reviewers consider it unnecessary.
Graphics.Many upscale diapers (and some discount diaper brands, as well) are imprinted with popular cartoon characters such as Disney personalities or Dora the Explorer. These may appeal to parents and children but don't affect diapers' performance. Ditto for the decorative designs found on some lines.
Diaper Performance Reviews
There's no shortage of diaper reviews, even for the cheap brands. We found hundreds of comments by parents on vendor sites, including Amazon, Viewpoints, Diapers.com, Target, and Walgreens, and on blogs, forums, and parenting sites such as BabyGearLab and Parents.com. As we read through the reviews, it became clear that several budget diaper brands do, in fact, satisfy all the critical criteria. That is, they're absorbent and only rarely leak, and fit most babies comfortably without irritating.
When it's time to make a choice, remember that no two babies are alike. An inexpensive brand that fits a best friend's child perfectly may not work for yours. Finding the right diaper is like finding the right dress or suit -- some styles are more becoming and fit better than others. A little trial and error is often necessary.
Absorption and Leakage.What every parent or caregiver wants is a diaper that keeps a baby dry and doesn't spew its contents, day or night. Not surprisingly, every diaper brand touts its multitude of absorbent layers (often with a proprietary formula) and a design that guards against leaks. If leakage is a recurring problem with any of the best cheap diapers, it's either time to move up to the next size or switch to a different brand. Comparative testing of 24 different diapers by BabyGearLab included three of our picks: Target's Up & Up, Luvs Ultra Leakguards, and Huggies Snug & Dry. The experts weren't particularly impressed by these budget diapers, which turned in underwhelming performances compared with some pricier options. Tests found that the first two slightly bested the latter on leak protection but lagged in absorbency.
The in-home experience may be different, of course, and hundreds of parents assign positive ratings to all three brands, as well as to Pampers Baby Dry, for absorption and leakage. We did come across a spot of grumbling about overnight protection. (Tip: Try double diapering or a premium brand for sleep time; you can still save money by using budget diapers during the day.) Overall, though, the strong consensus in reviews is that these diapers neatly meet parents' expectations.
Compared with Target's Up & Up, other store brands don't fare so well. Judgments about Walgreens' Well Beginnings are inconsistent, and even the most supportive reviews often mention leakage, which may be due at least in part to the diaper's stiffness and lack of give.
BumGenius 4.0, a cloth diaper alternative, wins accolades from parents who have tried traditional cloth as well as disposables. Many assert BumGenius diapers are far less likely to leak, especially at night (an extra insert helps).
Snug Fit.Diaper construction and design only go so far when it comes to preventing leaks. A snug fit is the necessary complement. Here, too, diaper reviews indicate that our top choices meet the standard. Stretchy material, grippy tabs, adjustable waist, elastic around the legs, and various iterations thereof are the primary reasons these diapers please so many parents. That said, some brands seem better suited for certain body types than others -- the shape is more contoured, perhaps, or offers more rear coverage. Huggies Snug & Dry seems to work particularly well for boys, according to parent reports, while Pampers Baby Dry seems to be a good match for lanky babies. The Luvs Ultra Leakguards line accommodates a range of baby shapes. Up & Up diapers aren't as stretchy as the premium brands, but reviews suggest they're OK for chubbier babies. Walgreens' Well Beginnings, on the other hand, draw barbs from parents of larger children.
The one-size-fits-all design of BumGenius 4.0 should work for babies up through toilet training. Some diaper reviews, however, claim they're too large for newborns and too tight for chubby toddlers. Reviews of earlier versions gripe about elastic that stretched out and laundry tabs that wore out, but the newest model seems to have addressed these issues and also sports more generous sizing.
Additional Products We Considered
BumGenius 4.0 Review
Cloth diapers are a category unto themselves, filled with dozens of brands and styles, and the one-size-fits-all BumGenius 4.0 is a leading player. Reviews say these diapers are highly absorbent and as easy to put on a baby as disposables. At Diaper Pin, for example, parents laud the overall quality and performance -- snug, comfortable, and no leakage. One bought used diapers that had been worn by at least two children, replaced the elastic at the top, and reported they are as leak-proof as new. The inserts hold a lot of waste, reviews say, and one asserts that the baby stays dry longer than with bamboo diapers, another cloth variant. Using an extra insert provides extra protection.
Although most BumGenius 4.0 reviews say the universal size works, parent feedback indicates that one size doesn't always fit all. Some struggle with the diaper's bulkiness, especially on smaller babies. For babies weighing less than 12 pounds, BumGenius's newborn version may be an alternative.
Caregivers say the diapers wash up well and, according to a post at Amazon, emerge without odors or stains even when hand-washed. (Tip from one mother: Hanging diapers in the sun to dry helps minimize staining.) And while one father's review grouses about the exacting and time-consuming machine-washing routine, a chunk of parents happily note they save hundreds of dollars by using cloth rather than disposable diapers.
BumGenius 4.0 diapers (from $17.50/diaper, Amazon) consist of a waterproof outer shell and a microfiber cloth that's inserted into the diaper before using; each diaper comes with two inserts, one intended for a newborn. The diaper is designed for babies weighing between 8 and 35-plus pounds. It fastens at the top with a "butterfly" closure and adjusts for size with snaps or hooks and loops. There are stretchy sides and elastic around the legs and in the back. A stash of 12 to 24 diapers should be sufficient, and many diapers are put to use a second time around.
Washable BumGenius 4.0 diapers are an eco-friendly choice, and ultimately a frugal one. They're widely available at brick-and-mortar stores, online, and on the secondhand-baby-gear circuit.
Cuties Diapers Review
Assessments of Cuties, a relative upstart, are very enthusiastic. Indeed, many reviewers admit to trying these diapers just to see what all the hype has been about. The makers of Cuties brand diapers got their start making products to handle adult incontinence.
Cuties diapers earn high praise for the softness and flexibility of the shells. Many caregivers say they were pleasantly surprised by the absorbency and leak protection, aided by a seal around the legs, even overnight, and ranked them alongside pricier lines such as Huggies Little Movers and Pampers Cruisers. One post at Viewpoints notes that the coverage area seems particularly well suited to larger children even as another at Drugstore.com says they fit nicely under clothes. Some reviews assert that rashes ostensibly caused by other diaper brands cleared up with Cuties even though they lack the chemical-free features of Seventh Generation Free & Clear and Earth's Best TenderCare. Others, however, failed to detect any performance improvement over economy store brands offered by the likes of Target and Walgreens.
In expert testing on 24 diaper labels by BabyGearLab, Cuties emerged a "best value" for price, durability, and above average absorption. Testers liked the fit and feel of the diaper but recorded slightly more than average problems with leakage and dinged it for ecological and health features. Overall, Cuties placed ninth among the sample competition, a perch that exceeded several Huggies lines, Target Up & Up, and Luvs Ultra Leakguards.
Cuties (from 18 cents/diaper, Amazon) are sized for newborns weighing up to 10 pounds and incrementally up through size 6 for children weighing more than 35 pounds. The Cuties liner is hypoallergenic and contains chamomile, aloe, and vitamin E. As on most other diapers in its class, the side panels and back waistband are stretchy. Reviews say the tabs are sufficiently strong.
With Cuties available primarily online, parents can't count on running to the store for a last-minute purchase. But a little forward planning nets quality diapers at a cheap price.